It’s the summer holidays and I’m making myself useful working at the hospital again as a healthcare assistant (HCA). Recent shifts have been in palliative care and it’s like when I volunteered but with added extra “messy” responsibilities. It’s a world away from my previous job but it’s rewarding to work with patients and other healthcare professionals. Some of them know I’m studying medicine and actively teach me too.
Recently I began taking observations, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen sats… etc. These haven’t been my first contact with patients but they do feel as though I’m doing something more ‘doctor’ like. First year medical school taught me what the numbers and observations mean so I’m beginning to grasp what’s going on with actual patients which is satisfying. With my looking a bit older, maybe the patients think I’ve done obs for years which I hope puts them at ease. Anyway, the practice will help with OSCEs in second year.
Although I’m getting used to it, the speed with which some people pass away still has me bewildered. A patient and I were chatting only a few days ago yet here I am preparing his body for the mortuary… upset relatives waiting outside…
Doctors, nurses and other HCAs tell me that they deal with so much bereavement by leaving it all behind when they walk out through the revolving doors. Yet I’ve seen a few healthcare professionals upset outside so it’s not always the case, we are after all, human.
I try to forget too but sometimes weeks and months later, patients faces, their voices and funny conversations we’ve had still pop into my head. Flashbacks of what their bodies looked like, their diseases, accompanying smells which I sometimes wish I would forget.
I’ve often thought what a waste it is that all those memories, skills learnt, experiences and connections with other people in those minds are gone, it’s too final. I wonder if one day we’ll be able to record them somehow so that others can learn from them?